Eco-friendly city living

The Joy of Buying Locally

Going to a farmer’s market has got to be one of my favorite things on Earth. There’s just something about the brilliant colors of the fruits and vegetables, the smell of fresh flowers, and the pungent nature of recently made farm-fresh cheese. It makes me smile just to think about it. While the products themselves are great, that’s only half the equation. The passion of the people who grew those vegetables and flowers and refined those recipes is also contagious. It takes a special person to care that much to make or grow something with their hands.

Every time we travel somewhere, visiting food markets is almost always one of our first priorities. Wandering the aisles tells you so much about what matters to the people. We’ve seen fresh honey in Pennsylvania Amish country, delicate cheeses in Provence, and handmade pastas in Italy. Each product shows what the people can grow or make and demonstrates the best characteristics of the land. If there’s an abundance, it tells you how the weather is and probably how happy people are. If choices are running thin, it may let you know that times are harder or life isn’t going quite as planned. Either way, shopping local (even on vacation) is a great glimpse into life in the area.

Buying local also has tremendous benefits to the environment. A single tomato can travel thousands of miles from its greenhouse in Chile to my home in the Northeast. Or I can walk a block and pick one in my community garden. The first scenario is a tremendous waste of energy–it needs grow lights to survive the winter in the greenhouse, takes human energy to get the tomato to the exporter, and then burns fossils fuels to transfer it to my grocery store. In the end, it doesn’t usually even taste that great. Tomatoes aren’t meant to be grown in winter. But then there’s the one that came from down the street. Sure, it may take some work to get the seedling to survive the bugs. But other than a little water and TLC, the energy needed to grow it is minimal, and even burn a few calories walking to pick it. Did I mention that it also tastes delicious? That’s because it was grown at the right time to have maximum flavor and it didn’t get all mealy on a 5-day journey to my table.

Shopping at a local store or market helps keep money in your community, too. Patronizing local stores or markets literally helps entrepreneurs put food on their own tables and gives them money to return to the area. It’s a cycle of good that is hard to replicate in other ways. Plus, you get the good feeling of knowing that you’ve purchased something you needed while helping a neighbor at the same time. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Whether you’re at home or traveling, buying local is one of the best things you can do for yourself, the community, and the environment. If you’ve never tried it, look up a local farmer’s market and try it out this weekend. Bonus if it’s summer and you can find yourself some sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, or peaches fresh from the orchard.

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